James Wan Puts Down More Roots at DC With ‘Swamp Thing’ Series

The ‘Aquaman’ director will produce the newest iteration of the iconic character for DC’s digital subscription service.
James Wan The Conjuring
By  · Published on May 3rd, 2018

The ‘Aquaman’ director will produce the newest iteration of the iconic character for DC’s digital subscription service.

James Wan has always been a wholly unique storyteller. With his directorial debut Saw, he introduced the world to a horror icon and created a very lucrative and long-running franchise. Since then, Wan’s reputation as a horror master has definitely grown, but he has also moved onto much bigger projects.

For his big-budget debut, Wan directed the well-received seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. He then boarded the DC Extended Universe with Aquaman, which will be out at the end of this year. That superhero movie won’t mark the end of Wan’s collaborations with DC. And his next effort for the brand would seem to perfectly combine his increasing mainstream appeal and his penchant for creepy things.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wan will be spearheading a Swamp Thing series based on the iconic character created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and popularized by Alan Moore’s ’70s  and ’80s comic run. The show will be part of DC Entertainment’s newly christened subscription streaming service, DC Universe. Wan will executive produce Swamp Thing while Mark Verheiden (Daredevil) and frequent Wan collaborator Gary Dauberman (IT) will write the screenplay and take up showrunning duties.

Swamp Thing will turn the spotlight onto Abby Arcane, a CDC researcher who returns to her hometown of Houma, Louisiana, to investigate the emergence of a deadly swamp-borne virus. Once there, she encounters and bonds with Alec Holland, a scientist who meets an untimely demise. Eventually, Abby realizes that there is more to the swamp than meets the eye as outside forces attempt to exploit its mysterious properties. She is also made aware that Alec may not be gone for good. Cue the emergence of Swamp Thing, the humanoid creature imbued with the ability to inhabit and animate all kinds of vegetable matter who now protects his swamp home.

A huge appeal of Swamp Thing is, at the series’ core, existentialism. There are the elements of body horror and Southern Gothic motifs, which includes romance and magic, that make the story eerie, captivating, and even weird. But there is also pathos for the titular character and the people who love and care about him. Furthermore, Swamp Thing is also rife with ecological allegory, which only makes an adaptation increasingly timely these days.

However, such themes have in the past been treated to more campy interpretations, which is evidenced by basically all adaptations of “Swamp Thing” so far. Wes Craven’s 1982 film of the same name, its more poorly received follow-up The Return of Swamp Thing, and the 1990s television series all come from the same branch of outrageous and silly entertainment. Making a low-budget monster movie with a man in a rubber suit can end up being a strangely charming take, but that’s certainly not the kind of “Swamp Thing” adaptation we need in 2018.

Fortunately, Wan’s Swamp Thing will likely be very different anyway. Known for taking famed if cliched icons in the horror genre — demons, dolls, nuns, and puppets — and creating suitably scary films out of them is a testament to his admirable talent. And as Wan even promises in a recent tweet, there will be some “signature horror elements” to look out for, already marking a crucial point of divergence for his take on the rich story. So, now the next question is will a certain chain-smoking trenchcoat-clad occult expert make an appearance?

Although Wan isn’t confirmed to be directing any of the episodes of Swamp Thing, his strong vision for his own original franchises bodes well for the series. Reuniting with Dauberman for yet another project can’t hurt either when they’re the winning team behind so much of the Conjuring cinematic universe.

Along with Swamp Thing, DC Universe has an exciting slate in the works, including the live-action  Superman prequel series Metropolis, the live-action Dick Grayson-centered Titans, and two animated series, Harley Quinn and Young Justice: Outsiders.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)